SAN JOSE – The Sharks, like many other NHL teams, have had no problems generating shots on goal against the Coyotes this season. Arizona entered Tuesday night with the worst shot differential in the league, and that only got worse in its game in San Jose.
The problem with the Sharks’ game midway through the second period, though, was that as much rubber as they were directing towards Mike Smith, very few of those shots where actually dangerous. That is, until the chatter picked up on the bench that if San Jose was going to erase what was a 1-0 deficit, it was going to have to make life harder on the Arizona netminder.
Chris Tierney took that message to heart. He skated the puck from the corner to the blue paint in a straight line, and jammed it through Smith and just over the line at 15:29 of the second period. The Sharks had a few more chances from close range in the third period on chances by Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau, in particular, before Brent Burns’ howitzer on an overtime power play sealed the 2-1 win.
“We were talking about taking it to the net a couple shifts right before that, so right when I saw the opening I thought I would just take it right there and see what happens,” Tierney said. “I kind of got lucky. Just tried to shove it in, and it ended up in.”
Tierney’s effort on his marker not only tied the game, it instilled some jam into his teammates.
DeBoer said: “We've seen enough of Mike Smith to know that if he sees it he's going to stop it, and if you're not standing right in front of him or taking it to the hole or making it tough on him, he's going to get in front of it. That [Tierney goal] really started to change the game. We started to get a little bit of that mindset, and Tierns got rewarded for that."
The Sharks led on the shot clock 41-19 after the third period, but only required one more to record the extra point in the standings. Joe Pavelski pushed the puck to Burns at the top of the circle with Martin Hanzal in the box for high sticking, and the Wookiee let fly with a blast that Smith couldn’t track.
Burns called the play a “Spotter Special,” as in Sharks assistant coach Steve Spott, who is in charge of the power play.
What is a Spotter special?
“It’s a secret,” Burns said. “You have to talk to Spotter. I’m giving away too much.”
DeBoer wasn’t offering any further info, either. “I don't know what it is, but it worked,” he said. “I stay out of power play meetings.”
The win gave the Sharks their first in three tries against Arizona, which remains in last place in the Western Conference. It also catapulted them into first place in the Pacific Division, as the Sharks capped off a 4-1 homestand and leapfrogged Edmonton.
Their game would seem to be in a decent place ahead of a division meeting with hated rival and red-hot Los Angeles on Wednesday at Staples Center, followed by the best team in the league, Montreal, at SAP Center on Friday. That will cap off a furious 11-games-in-18-days stretch for the Sharks before they get to enjoy a rare weekend off.
“I think we’re playing a pretty solid game right now,” Tierney said. “It was a good homestand. … If we stick with our game plan most nights and our compete level, we’re a hard team to beat.”
DeBoer said: “I like how we're playing, and it's nice to get rewarded in the standings."